What to Do With the Stuff That Doesn't Spark Joy

Will this be the year you finally clear out the garage and share those treasures with the world?. Pedro Rufo/Shutterstock.com

Maybe you're inspired by the Marie Kondo minimalism that has invaded Netflix. Or perhaps you're getting a jump on spring cleaning. Whatever your motivation, when you start cleaning out closets and attacking the garage, have a plan for those unwanted items that no longer bring you joy.

Appliances — If you're buying a new large appliance, most stores will take away the old one for you. But if you are just replacing something smaller and your old one still works, either sell it — try Nextdoor or Craigslist — or donate it to a local charity like Goodwill or Habitat for Humanity's ReStore. If the appliance doesn't work, MarthaStewart.com suggests asking local repair shops to see if they can use it for parts.

Baby gear — If things are relatively new and in good shape, you can try a consignment shop or sale. To donate, try a local women and children's shelter or a children's hospital.

Batteries — Rechargeable batteries contain heavy metals that can pollute the environment. Visit Call2Recycle to find a drop-off location — like Home Depot and Lowe's — for batteries from your cellphone, cordless phone, laptop and other rechargeable items. Some locations also take single-use batteries for recycling so you don't have to toss them in the trash.

Bikes — You can try to sell a working bike through community message boards or donate it to a local charity. There are also national groups that focus on refurbishing bikes and sending them to people in need around the world. Start by checking out the International Bike Fund and Bikes for the World.

puppy with blanket at shelter
Your old blankets can have a new life at an animal shelter. Janet Waldbillig/Shutterstock

Blankets and towels — Who cares if they have bleach stains or bare spots? Local animal shelters and rescues would love to have your old linens. They can make kennels more comfortable and bath time much easier.

Books — If your shelves are overflowing with books you've already read, give your tomes a new life by donating them to the library. They may make it onto the library shelves or be sold as part of a fundraiser. You can also stock a Little Free Library in your neighborhood or help send books to U.S. troops overseas with Operation Paperback.

CDs, DVDs and vinyl — Some libraries also would be glad to have your music and movie castoffs. If you'd like to try to profit from your collection, sell them on eBay or Amazon or try your neighborhood Facebook Group, Next Door or other social media group. Your hand-me-downs might be someone else's treasures.

Cellphones — You can sell or trade-in some phones on sites like Gazelle or Best Buy. Just plug in your model to see what it's worth. You can recycle phones by taking them to Best Buy, Staples or most of the vendors that sell them. If the phones still work, donate them to homeless or women's shelters. Just make sure to do a factory reset first to wipe all your personal information.

piles of clothes
If you don't like the fit or style, consign or donate the clothes you don't wear. Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Clothes — If you want to try to make some money, especially off high-end items, try a consignment shop or consider a yard sale. There are also plenty of ways to donate. Churches and homeless shelters typically give items directly to those who need them while places like Goodwill and the Salvation Army sell them and use the funds to help those in need.

Computers and electronics — If your items still work, you can try to sell them on a community forum or online. Some retailers will offer money toward a purchase. If you'd like to donate, most charities won't accept computers that are more than 5 years old. For older or non-working items, check with your local recycling service to see if and when electronics are accepted. Make sure to rid computers of all personal data first.

Eyeglasses — Your old glasses could mean better vision to someone halfway around the world. The Lions Club collects about 30 million pairs of glasses each year through boxes in optical shops, churches and stores, including Walmart, and the not-for-profit New Eyes for the Needy offers a mail-in option.

Furniture — If furniture is in decent shape, try selling it on Nextdoor, Craigslist or other community message boards. Some charities like Habitat ReStore will pick up furniture. There's also Freecycle where you can give your stuff a new life by handing it off to someone else who can use it.

Lightbulbs — It's not a good idea to throw away compact fluorescent bulbs in the garbage because they contain mercury. But you have options for old lightbulbs. Call your trash and recycling service to see if they have a collection program. Check in with stores like Home Depot, Lowe's and Ikea, which accept used CFLs for recycling, or visit www.earth911.com to find other local options for both CFLs and LEDs.

old makeup
Before you toss your old makeup, see if any of the containers might be reusable. Mr.Cheangchai Noojuntuk/Shutterstock

Makeup — When you have lipstick or foundation that has seen better days, consider repurposing or recycling the containers. If you make your own lip balm, you can use these old mini tubs to hold your new goop. Some makeup companies — like Aveda, Lush, Kiehl's and Origins — will also accept certain empty containers for recycling.

Mattresses — If you buy a new mattress, most retailers will take the old one away. Consumer Reports suggests asking if the retailer is going to recycle its component or just send it to a landfill. If your old mattress is still in good shape, call local shelters or charities to see if they're interested. Search Earth911 for other options.

Medicine — When cleaning out your medicine cabinet, it can be tempting to flush all those expired or unused drugs or toss them in the trash. But we know that's not smart for the environment. You can wait for the next National Prescription Drug Take Back Day and drop them off at participating pharmacies and other agencies. Some Walgreens and CVS pharmacies accept prescription drugs for disposal year-round.

Paint — Hold old are those cans of paint in your garage? Consumer Reports points out that paint made before 1978 might contain lead and paint made before 1991 might have mercury. If your paint is safe from both, see if your community recycling has paint collection days (www.earth911.com can help find a local recycler). Local high school and college drama departments may also be interested in your paint if it's in decent shape.

Pet gear — Check those toys before you toss them: You may be able to repair them and give them a new life. If you still have toys or supplies — like leashes, collars or bedding — that is ready for a new four-legged friend, donate to your favorite shelter or rescue.

plastic storage containers
Cracked containers might be repurposed or at least recycled. nipastock/Shutterstock

Plastic storage containers — When you're tired of trying to match up lids and containers, first figure out if those plastics might have another life for plant seedlings or something else around your house. If that doesn't work, recycle the ones you can after checking the symbols.

Shoes — Donate shoes to a charity that will make sure they will get to people who can use them. Try Soles4Souls, a Nashville-based nonprofit that has delivered more than 30 million pairs of shoes in 127 countries since 2006.

Sports equipment — If your kids have outgrown their gear, find a Play It Again Sports, where you can sell your old stuff. You can also donate used equipment to kids who need it through organizations like Leveling the Playing Field.

Toys — Really awesome toys (think LEGOs) sell well online and in community groups. Give stuffed animals to a fire department so they can give them to kids who are frightened after fires or accidents.